Jiang Hong scrambled out of the car window, desperate to escape, but was grabbed back by a furry yet extremely hard claw, followed by a plastic rope wrapping around his neck, constantly tightening.
Jiang Hong’s vision went black. He struggled with his feet, almost suffocating. At the last moment, he turned his head——
——and saw a black spider head, its mouth parts constantly rubbing. The spider’s compound eyes reflected Jiang Hong’s terrified face.
Jiang Hong: “………………”
Jiang Hong’s head tilted and he stopped moving.
“Don’t strangle him to death,” the monkey driving the car said.
The huge spider, with its bloated abdomen, occupied nearly half of the bus space, and with its eight legs spread out, it was the size of a private car. At this moment, it made rustling sounds, using its two front legs to “hold” Jiang Hong, taking him to the front of the bus.
But this time, Jiang Hong didn’t faint. His fear threshold had somehow increased, and he seemed to have seen this terrifying scene somewhere before. But that didn’t matter. What was this thing? A spider?! So terrifying! Oh my god!
If inner monologues could be visualized, Jiang Hong’s silent “ah” could fill up the entire Jialing River. His fear had reached its peak, but perhaps things would turn around. At the last moment, he suddenly became calm.
First of all, he closed his eyes so he couldn’t see that terrifying spider.
Then, he tried to control his shaking body as much as possible, pretending to pass out.
The spider didn’t seem to have a thought of its own. It was just quietly holding Jiang Hong, an obedient pet raised by the monkey demon.
Jiang Hong’s heart was turned upside down——Where is my protective charm?! Why isn’t it working?! What are these things?! Ah, so tired, want to sleep……no, no……Jiang Hong’s whole body was covered in goosebumps.
The bus stopped, air was released, and the sound of door opening echoed.
It seemed that a person got on – a woman by the sound of her voice.
Jiang Hong tried to open one eye slightly. He saw the spider’s fluffy, fly-like head close by.
Jiang Hong: “……”
Jiang Hong promptly closed his eyes again.
“Is this the young man?” the woman asked.
“Yes,” the driver’s voice was sharp and piercing. Soon, the car continued to drive again. The bus raced down Binjiang Avenue. There were only a few private cars passing by in twos and threes on the road. In the dark night, no one would notice the huge spider in the bus.
“He looks like an ordinary person.” The woman’s voice was gentle, and she even reached out to touch Jiang Hong’s face.
“Time is running out,” the driver said.
Suddenly, Jiang Hong felt a wave of cold liquid soaking his whole body. Following that, a suffocating sensation came over him, as if something was drilling into his body. He couldn’t help but open his eyes wide, feeling intense pain all over his body.
He was wrapped in a black sticky substance, and through the semi-transparent substance, he saw a middle-aged woman in heavy makeup smiling at him.
Jiang Hong wanted to scream, but he couldn’t make a sound. He saw her claws reach into the sticky substance and grab at his face.
The world suddenly went dark, and Jiang Hong lost consciousness.
After a short moment, a gust of wind blew, and the cold rain hit his face. Jiang Hong woke up.
“Help…” Jiang Hong turned his head and was shocked to see that he was hanging from the top of Jialing River Bridge, suspended by spider’s silk, with a giant arm hanging above him.
The giant arm was like a towering pillar. There was thunder rolling in the sky, and lightning flashed faintly in the dark clouds.
The wet monkey was accompanied by its giant spider, watching from the side.
A middle-aged woman dressed in a janitor’s uniform sat calmly beside Jiang Hong and said, “Little brother, let’s have a chat.”
Jiang Hong: “…”
In this situation, the scene in front of him was incredibly bizarre.
“Who are you?” Jiang Hong shouted loudly. “Are you a demon? Help! Help!”
Jiang Hong had no way to deny it and quickly accepted the premise that “there were demons in the world”. It was hard to believe, but the most urgent matter now was to find a way to escape from the dangerous situation.
“I heard you went to Xi’an,” the cleaner said kindly. “I want to ask you, did you meet Cao Bin? What task did your uncle give you? Did he ask you to steal the Sword of Wisdom?”
“Who’s that? What sword?” Jiang Hong begged with a crying tone. “I don’t know! I don’t have an uncle! Did you get the wrong person?”
The cleaner put on gloves and opened a toolkit with “Wuyou Housekeeping” written on it. Jiang Hong looked at her toolkit and suddenly became terrified. It was full of instruments such as tweezers, needles, surgical scissors, and other torture tools.
The cleaner approached Jiang Hong with surgical scissors and forceps, and whistled to a spider on the side. The spider slowly crawled over, and Jiang Hong thought, “Is it going to lay eggs in my stomach?”
“What are you going to do?!” Jiang Hong pleaded. “I really don’t know what you’re talking about! Are you using torture now? Please don’t do anything crazy! I saw it, I saw it! Don’t come any closer!”
“Oh, right, what did you just say?” Jiang Hong quickly said. “I didn’t hear clearly. Can you repeat it again? I’m too nervous…”
“Sword of Wisdom,” the monkey reminded him. “Have you found it?”
“Yes, yes, that’s it,” Jiang Hong said. “It’s in that guy Cao Bin’s room, under his pillow! I told you! Can you let me go now?”
The cleaner and the monkey looked at each other in doubt. Jiang Hong wondered if he had any weapons on him. His hands were tied to his sides, and he kept fumbling in his pockets. Suddenly, he found the edge of the protective charm. Maybe it could cut the spider silk. They were fifty meters away from the water. Would he die if he jumped down?
He tightly held the protective charm and tried to use it to cut the spider silk, but its edge was too blunt.
However, a familiar voice suddenly rang in his mind:
“When you’re scared, hold onto it and call my name.”
Who? Who was that? In an instant, Jiang Hong’s mind went blank. He felt like he had forgotten someone important, and no matter what he did, he couldn’t remember. But that person was real, as if he had just talked to Jiang Hong a few days ago…
…whose name should he call? A man…what was his name?
“What was his name…what was it?” Jiang Hong looked at the cleaner who showed no sign of stopping. The spider arched its back and laid a fist-sized, blood-red egg.
The janitor had started cutting open Jiang Hong’s T-shirt and was disinfecting his abs with alcohol wipes.
Jiang Hong struggled desperately, but just couldn’t remember that name. He shouted, “I’ve told you everything I know! It’s that person! I’ve forgotten everything else! I only know Lu…”
A thunderbolt struck, and a loud boom shook the surroundings, even scaring the two demons.
“Lu Xiu!” Jiang Hong gripped the charm tightly and screamed into the stormy wind and rain. “Lu Xiu! Lu Xiu!”
Thunder drowned out Jiang Hong’s cries, and as the thunderstorm subsided, the rain lessened.
The world fell silent, and nothing happened.
Jiang Hong: “…”
The monkey demon looked at Jiang Hong suspiciously.
One second, two seconds, three seconds.
Half a minute passed, and still nothing happened.
The janitor said, “This is your last chance, or I’ll cut your belly open, stuff spider eggs in, and sew it back up. Don’t worry, handsome, I’ll sew it up so well you won’t even notice…”
Jiang Hong finally broked down and roared, “If you’re going to kill me, then kill me! Disgusting demon! If I can move, I’ll kill you first! Demon! Garbage! Get out of here!”
The janitor let out a strange laugh, sounding particularly piercing.
“If you really had the ability, you wouldn’t…”
The dark clouds receded, and the moon came out. Under the gentle moonlight, a huge black shadow appeared in Jialing River.
A loud clang of metal resounded, deafening like a hammer dragging across an ancient bell, leaving a humming resonance.
The monkey demon and janitor turned their heads at the same time.
Under the moonlight, a nearly twenty-meter-long dragon leaped out of Jialing River, with towering waves and splashing water. Every scale glimmered with the moon’s brilliance. Every drop of water scattered around reflected the world under the moon.
The black dragon roared as it flew out of the river, colliding with the bridge’s cantilever. The two demons lifted their heads, showing a look of shock and fear, even forgetting to dodge.
Jiang Hong stared blankly at the sky. All of this happened in just three seconds. From his perspective, he only saw a huge shadow covering the sky.
The next moment, a small piece of the cantilever collapsed, and strands of spider silk flew in the air. Jiang Hong turned around instinctively, opened his arms, and jumped into Jialing River!
Fifty meters! God bless me! Hold your breath! Jiang Hong silently prayed, please don’t let me die on the water surface!
However, in an instant, the black dragon came crashing towards him, using its dragon horns to intercept him and taking him on a loop in the air. Jiang Hong tightly held onto the dragon horns and shouted, “What is this thing now–“
Black Dragon: “……”
The black dragon nearly spewed its dragon flames in the wrong direction, but the monkey had already rushed down the bridge at high speed. The janitor let out a sharp scream, unfolded her wings, and turned into a bat and flew away.
The black dragon was furious but couldn’t find a target to vent its anger. With a sweep of its long tail, it directly smashed the spider to death on the bridge.
Jiang Hong said, “Wait…wait!”
Before Jiang Hong could finish his sentence, the black dragon took him and plunged back into the river with a loud splash. Jiang Hong’s head spun as he felt bubbles all around him. He instinctively held onto the dragon horns, but suddenly found himself holding onto nothing–
–The black dragon had disappeared.
Jiang Hong struggled to swim upstream. A pair of arms appeared and tightly embraced him from behind.
It was a slender young man who held Jiang Hong tightly and swam upstream with him in the pitch-black Jialing River.
In the silence, Jiang Hong stopped moving and let the young man take him to the surface.
Jiang Hong had been a member of the high school swim team and was always good at swimming, but this young man was clearly more familiar with the water than he was, so he treated himself as the one being rescued.
Unexpectedly, the young man thought he was drowning when Jiang Hong suddenly stopped moving. He nervously turned his face to look at Jiang Hong.
Jiang Hong: “?”
In the faint light, the young man’s eyes were clear and full of concern. Jiang Hong pointed upwards and then to his throat, meaning, “Shouldn’t we hurry up and go up?”
The young man hugged him and brought him to the surface.
Jiang Hong breathed a sigh of relief and the young man slowly guided him to the shore, both of them finally landing on the cobblestone street drenched to the bone.
Jiang Hong had narrowly escaped death and almost had spider eggs planted in his stomach.
“I’m sorry I’m late,” the young man said. “Jiang Hong.”
“You, you, you, how do you know me?” Jiang Hong coughed and said in surprise.
The two of them looked at each other, and Jiang Hong was briefly quiet before saying, “You are…Lu Xiu!”
“You remembered?” It was now Lu Xiu’s turn to be surprised. They sat side by side. Lu Xiu gently lifted Jiang Hong’s wet hair and looked into his eyes.
However, what greeted him was Jiang Hong’s confused gaze. He obviously knew nothing about what was happening.
“Is it you?” Jiang Hong looked around, afraid that the demon would catch up. He tightly held Lu Xiu’s hand and spoke incoherently, “I don’t know who you are, but I suddenly remembered this name and shouted it out…if there was someone named Lu Xiu, he would come to save me…who are you?”
“It’s okay now,” said Lu Xiu finally.
The rain had started again, and Lu Xiu walked with an umbrella alongside Jiang Hong on Binjiang Road. It was midnight, and the passing cars were becoming fewer and fewer. Jiang Hong had tried to hail a taxi a few times but to no avail. Both of them were soaked, with water dripping down their bodies.
Lu Xiu wore a white shirt that clung to his body after being soaked, revealing the fair skin and muscular physique of a young man.
“What… what are you?” Jiang Hong felt safe beside him but was still curious about him.
“I am an exorcist,” Lu Xiu answered.
“Ex… exorcist?” Jiang Hong was puzzled. “What’s that?”
Lu Xiu signaled for him to continue hailing a taxi. “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to protect you.”
Jiang Hong took a deep breath. The night of terror was finally over, and he felt somewhat relieved.
Twenty minutes later, Jiang Hong managed to hail a taxi. He looked at Lu Xiu imploringly, not wanting to part with him, but Lu Xiu gestured to him to stop hesitating and get in the car. He got in too.
“Great!” Jiang Hong said, relieved. “Will you accompany me home? Where do you live? Or do you want to stay at my place?”
“I’ll take you to your doorstep,” Lu Xiu replied.
Jiang Hong gave him the address, and the taxi drove onto Jialing River Bridge, heading back towards Yuzhong Peninsula.
“Do you know me?” Jiang Hong suddenly asked.
“Uh-huh,” Lu Xiu replied.
Jiang Hong was still a bit suspicious. He had many questions he wanted to ask, but he couldn’t just babble in front of the taxi driver.
“Daozhang (1), do you have WeChat?” Jiang Hong whispered.
Lu Xiu leaned in, and Jiang Hong took out his phone, thinking he was going to add him as a friend. But Lu Xiu whispered slowly in his ear, “Don’t call me Daozhang. Otherwise, I will hit you.”
“Okay, okay,” Jiang Hong apologized quickly.
The look in Lu Xiu’s eyes could have killed Jiang Hong. After taking the phone and entering his own WeChat account, Lu Xiu let Jiang Hong add him and then threw the phone back.
The taxi quickly arrived outside Jiang Hong’s home, which was a gated community. Jiang Hong swiped his access card to bring Lu Xiu inside, but Lu Xiu said, “I’ll just see you off here.”
Jiang Hong turned around and was still a little scared. He wanted to invite Lu Xiu to go home with him, but Lu Xiu said, “You don’t have to be afraid. They won’t come again. Go back and sleep well, and forget about this.”
Suddenly, Jiang Hong said, “Lu Xiu, did we meet in Xi’an?”
Lu Xiu never expected Jiang Hong to ask this question. After a moment of silence, he nodded. “Yes. You remembered… How did you know?”
Standing outside the gates, Jiang Hong turned around and said, “I found out that I went to Xi’an for a trip and don’t remember anything. I also found this protective charm on me. Did we know each other? Later, because of something, you erased my memory of that time?”
“You’re very smart,” Lu Xiu said with a raised eyebrow.
“So we’ve known each other for a long time, right?” Jiang Hong guessed. He was not stupid, but he just wasn’t very good at studying.
“Not for a very long time,” Lu Xiu said. “Aren’t you going home? Aren’t you afraid your parents will worry?”
Jiang Hong looked at his phone. It was already past one o’clock.
“But where do you live? You’re all wet. Why don’t you come to my house and change into some dry clothes… Is there still a bus to take you back this late at night?”
“I promise that from now on, you will be absolutely safe,” Lu Xiu said. “Don’t mention tonight’s events to anyone.”
“Take my umbrella.” Jiang Hong handed his umbrella to Lu Xiu, but Lu Xiu didn’t take it.
“Lu Xiu,” Jiang Hong said, “will we meet again?”
“You can summon me, can’t you?” Lu Xiu said indifferently, then he turned and left.
Jiang Hong watched his back and then ran into the community.
His father had already fallen asleep, but his mother was still waiting for him to come home. Seeing that Jiang Hong was soaked through, she said, “We were going to call the police! Where were you?”
“Hush,” Jiang Hong gestured to his mother not to wake his father up. After persuading and apologizing to his mother, she angrily went back to her room.
Jiang Hong was exhausted. He went back to his room, took off his clothes, and took a shower. In the hazy steam, he took out the protective charm and examined it carefully under the light.
If he called out Lu Xiu’s name, would he appear? Uh, he was taking a shower. Maybe it’s better not to call him.
Jiang Hong felt that too much had happened today, just like a dream. However, in his eighteen years of life, he had finally encountered a paranormal event.
But some things, once they passed, seemed extremely unreal. Jiang Hong even began to doubt whether he had really experienced everything on Jialing River Bridge, except for the soreness of his body reminding him that this was not a dream.
At midnight, the rain finally stopped, and the dark clouds dispersed, revealing a sky full of stars.
Jiang Hong’s home was a small townhouse, and his bedroom and study were on the third floor. At two o’clock in the morning, the lights finally went out.
At this moment, Lu Xiu was lying on the roof of Jiang Hong’s house, closing his eyes and feeling the gentle night breeze.
1. Daozhang – a common way to address priests.